A week later, my nieces, aged nine and twelve, were flying up to spend a week with me. After literally hours on hold with Spirit, I was informed that there was no fee for the two girls traveling alone, since the twelve year old would be responsible for her younger sister. I was shocked by that, but I went ahead and booked their tickets.
We had a great week shopping, eating, and just hanging out. When I took them to the airport for their departure, I was informed that there was, indeed, a $100 fee for each child, since they were flying without an adult. Ah, this was more like the Spirit Airlines I've come to loathe. And again, I had no choice but to pay it.
Getting nowhere with "customer service", I protested the charge on my American Express card, and also filed a complaint with The Better (or worse) Business Bureau of Florida. And then I received this email, just last month:
Re: Complaint #xxxxxxx - Spirit Airlines
We have formally processed your complaint and sent it to the above named company. We will send you a copy of their response as soon as we receive it. Please allow up to 30 business days for a response to be received before you inquire about the status of your complaint.
If the company contacts you about your complaint, let us know. This will help us to keep our information current and take timely action on your complaint.
Thank you for using the Better Business Bureau.
Seriously? Over two years later? I did some research on this airline, and apparently, I am not the only upset customer. And more to the point, the CEO truly does not give a damn.
"We're the Wal-Mart or the McDonald's — not the Nordstrom's — of the airline industry," Baldanza says. "No one walks into McDonald's and gets disappointed when they don't see filet mignon on the menu."
Consumer advocate Kate Hanni says Spirit's problems with fliers cannot be explained away so easily.
"They are the absolute worst airline in the country," says Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org. "If it costs a little more, take the other airline."
Among other problems, Hanni says, three flights from Fort Lauderdale to Atlantic City were diverted to Philadelphia because of bad weather in mid-May, and passengers called police after not being allowed to disembark for many hours.
If any Spirit passengers feel they've been treated badly, "They should fly someone else," Baldanza says. "That's the way the free market works," he says. "I don't eat at some restaurants when I'm treated badly. Our job is to make sure that doesn't happen to a majority of customers."
Two years ago, Baldanza accidentally replied to an e-mail from a customer requesting a refund for missing a concert in Atlanta after a flight delay.
"We owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned," Baldanza said in his e-mail. "Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny."